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From refugee to high school diploma grad
Education Centre student a poster child for success
Emmanuel Nizigiyimana knows you can’t put a price on education.
The Windsor Park resident was among nearly 40 graduates who recently received their high school diplomas from the St. Vital Adult Education Centre at a colourful, family-oriented graduation ceremony at Holy Family Church on Archibald Street.
Nizigiyimana — who lives with his mother, brother and four sisters — now has ambitions to go to college to study electrical engineering.
"I feel like a very important person now. I feel like doors are opening everywhere. Before, I would apply for jobs and they asked for a Grade 12 diploma. Now I have a diploma and a future," he said.
The 28-year-old came to Winnipeg six years ago after growing up in a refugee camp and escaping the genocide in his native Rwanda. Moments after receiving his diploma, Nizigiyimana reflected on his journey of survival from Africa to Canada. He was 10 when then genocide started.
"We were in the camp for 12 years. By chance, we survived. At the time, it was the only life I knew. Once I found out about life outside the refugee camp, I felt dead," he said, adding he lost his father and two older brothers in the genocide.
From a young age, his simple routine in the camp would consist of waking up in the morning, sitting, eating, and waiting to go to bed: "Friends and neighbours died because there was not enough food."
Now happy and settled in Windsor Park, Nizigiyimana is appreciative of his life in Winnipeg.
"It’s different," he said. "People eat well, drink well, drink milk. People can have plans to get a job, a mortgage, a car."
Nizigiyimana has worked restaurant and factory jobs to support his family and buy a vehicle.
"If they need to go to the doctor or the dentist, I drive them. I worked very hard when I came to Canada," he said.
Patrick LeBlanc, executive director of the school’s umbrella organization Teen Stop Jeunesse, has worked hard to build up the adult education program, which is now partnered with Winnipeg Technical College, in the past decade.
He said the program — which recently had 39 graduates compared to nine in 2001 — fills an important niche in southeast Winnipeg.
"The demographic tends to be original Canadians who didn’t fit into their original high school programs, such as females who got pregnant at a young age, as well as a large number of aboriginal students and new Canadians," LeBlanc said.
River Heights resident Val DeVries, education director at SVAEC, praised Nizigiyimana for his commitment his education.
"This is his second time as a student in the centre. He’s very dedicated worker and worked really hard to get his high school diploma," DeVries said, noting Nizigiyimana also recently obtained his Canadian citizenship.
For more information, visit www.stvitaladulted.com or call 254-1618.
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(1 of 11 articles for this week)05/22/2013 1:00 AM 0
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